Because I live and work with students around the clock, letting myself escape to coffee shops is not only how I get “me” time, but also the only way I can ever foster productivity. Coffee shops are bountiful in Oxford seemingly for that reason: to provide ample caffeine and empty seats for students and academics to work and study. Besides using them for work and my graduate degree, much of my songwriting, article writing, poetry, brainstorming, project drafting, picture editing, and dreaming is born in a corner of a coffee shop somewhere, cortado in hand.
Besides using them for work and my graduate degree, much of my songwriting, article writing, poetry, brainstorming, project drafting, picture editing, and dreaming is born in a corner of a coffee shop somewhere, cortado in hand.
My job is extremely flexible, as far as day-to-day routines go, so my days can potentially be completely open as long as I get administrative work done or trips planned by their deadlines. Coffee shops, simply put, offer a space perfectly tailored to my current lifestyle. Over the years, my comfort in engaging in both left-brain and right-brain work in Oxford’s coffee shops has increased. I’ve found that adding some sort of structure to my day was better for my writing, so “the coffeeshop” has become “the office.”
It makes sense that my productivity soars as my state-dependent learning is reinforced by this rhythm of life. Even mood-congruent memory helps because I usually go into a coffeeshop day with the same attitude towards how I want the day to go. Each coffee shop in Oxford represents a different type of environment and work that I will be engaging in. There is strategy behind which shop to choose, depending on what type of work I need to accomplish for the day.
Let me throw out a couple of disclaimers: The shops below have already passed my coffee standard test. They all provide superb, specialty coffee that I adore and crave. These shops are not exclusively “workshops,” but also amazing places to hang out and meet with friends.
Brew is tiny. Its biggest asset is the fact that it is a street away from where I live, and I go there when I have a split day and need to run home after a few hours. I come here to read, journal, and write songs: all tangible, hand-associated things. Brew is my little sanctuary when I need to reflect on life or take a breather but not feel overwhelmed by walking through the chaotic city center. The space is also so intimate that I can overhear every conversation and observe people up close - experiences I have borrowed for some objective writing exercises.
Barefoot Bakery // Jericho Coffee Traders
Barefoot is the next closest coffee shop: situated in Jericho, possibly my favorite neighborhood of Oxford. Barefoot is for those lazy days when I feel like I should leave the house, but still have the option of coming home for tea time and not being post-city exhausted. This space is better for tête-à-têtes than for working, somehow, it’s not suited for getting lost in my writing world. All my coffee dates with students end satisfactorily here, but my writing gets distracted by tea cups and brownies. Maybe this is because the shop is more bakery than cafe, and the traffic revolves around cake and relaxation instead of coffee and focus.
Barefoot is for those lazy days when I feel like I should leave the house, but still have the option of coming home for tea time and not being post-city exhausted.
The Missing Bean
This is an interesting shop for me because the only work I ever do here is songwriting. The first time I visited I produced a song in fullness and it has been a success since that day. I attribute this writing energy and inspiration to the huge bay windows, a lens to the outside world. I stare and stare at people walking by, at people staring back at me, and I turn that into music and words. Turl Street blends not only colleges and shops, but tourists, students, and locals together in a way that perfectly represents Oxford’s transience, diversity, history and richness. How could I not be inspired by that?
(Video filmed in the Missing Bean Roastery)
Society provides a freshness to my routine because it is the newest addition to my rota and the city itself. The environment here is probably the least cozy of all the shops, which does make me focus in on graduate work and left-hemisphere assignments more. There’s a dark cave downstairs if I am feeling really introverted. I have written songs here too, though, and never exclude the possibility that creativity will flow when coffee and people come together.
I have written songs here too, though, and never exclude the possibility that creativity will flow when coffee and people come together.
The HandleBar Cafe, formerly Zappi’s
This coffee shop feels most like an all-encompassing cafe to me. Every type of work I could ever do has been done here. This is the cafe where I come to organize my life and mark things off my to do list. This is the cafe I spend hours in--I think my longest shifts are 8 hours. I work, take water breaks, work, take barista breaks, work, take friend breaks, work, eat, work, etc. This is the cafe where I do the most brainstorming, future-planning, and dream building. Sadly, it has slowly transitioned into a full restaurant and forgone the cafe component , so I might have to find a new place to dream in.
Everyone jokes about "living" in coffeeshops, but short of sleeping over and carrying a toothbrush in my bag, I would say that I really kind of do. Coffee shops create a culture of creativity, community, and productivity for me that I choose to embrace. Each shop is unique in environment, vibe, aesthetic, and rhythm. But I have found what type of work pairs best with what type of shop, and I love Oxford for its options.
If you want to know more about these Oxford coffee shops or ones I did not mention in the article, feel free to ask me. You can check out my #carospace project which is further evidence for how my life and creative work has been integrated and influenced by the coffee culture of Oxford.